‘This is our country, not theirs’: Americans who obviously aren’t welcome in the Trump campaign’s exclusionary view of America
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been a favorite target of President Donald Trump and his supporters, and Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign singled out the 29-year-old Democratic congresswoman once again in an incendiary e-mail sent out on Tuesday. Ocasio-Cortez has been calling for the United States to abolish the Electoral College and elect presidents by a popular vote — and Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, in response, tweeted his reasons for opposing that idea. Although Crenshaw’s reasoning was flawed and wrong-headed, at least he was polite. Trump’s reelection campaign, however, went way beyond wanting to debate Ocasio-Cortez on why abolishing the Electoral College is or isn’t a good idea. Doubling down on the inflammatory us-versus-them rhetoric Trump has been using against Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats, the e-mail declared, “Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently called for abolishing the Electoral College. Remind her that this country belongs to AMERICANS from EVERY zip code, not just the Coastal Elites and Liberal Mega Donors. This is our country, not theirs.”
The “this is our country, not theirs” part is especially disturbing, as it speaks volumes about the view that Trump and his supporters have of the United States. Disagreeing with Ocasio-Cortez is one thing; there are some centrist Democrats in Congress who disagree with her often. But the “our country, not theirs” rhetoric goes right to the heart of the xenophobic, exclusionary message of Trump and his supporters — which, in essence, is that the U.S. is really a country of white Anglo Saxon fundamentalist Christians and that anyone else is an invader.
Here are some groups of Americans who are clearly regarded as outsiders or invaders in the 2020 Trump campaign’s vision of the United States.
When Trump told Ocasio-Cortez and three other congresswomen of color (Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Rep. Rashida Tlaib) to go back to the countries they originally came from, it was a ridiculous statement because three of them were born and raised in the U.S. (Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib) and Omar (a Somali immigrant) has been a naturalized U.S. citizen since 2000. But it was also a rally-the-base strategy because Trump was, in essence, saying that the U.S. is a country for white Anglo Saxons — and Hispanic Americans like Ocasio-Cortez have been at the top of the list of those Trump typically paints as unamerican.
Of course, there are millions of Latino Americans who, like AOC, were born and raised in the U.S. and speak English as their native language. But in the minds of Trump and his supporters, Latinos never fully assimilate even if their families have been in the U.S. for generations and their great grandparents were native English speakers. The fact that Trump has some Latino supporters who will go on the Spanish-language Univision network and passionately defend him with robotic talking points doesn’t erase the countless times he has made racist comments painting Latinos as not fully American.
Civil rights activists, for decades, have been blasting the words that racists typically use to show that they aren’t racists: “Some of my best friends are black.” Trump, in an effort to demonstrate that his economic policies are designed to help the African-American community, will point to the fact that hip-hop superstar Kanye West is an ardent supporter. But for every time Trump praises West, there have been numerous examples of Trump and his supporters “othering” blacks and implying that they aren’t fully American — whether it be Trump supporters chanting “send her back, send her back” in reference to Omar or Trump describing the predominantly black city of Baltimore as a “rat- and rodent-infested mess” in an effort to smear Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings (whose district includes parts of West Baltimore).
Although Trump was raised Episcopalian, he has never been especially religious. But that hasn’t prevented him from bonding with the Christian Right for political gain, and one of the things that makes Trump popular with far-right white evangelicals like the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr., Dr. James Dobson and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is his Islamophobia. While President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama were careful to make a distinction between peaceful non-fundamentalist Muslims and violent extremists like al-Qaeda, the Christian Right views all Muslims as jihadists — and when Trump singles out Omar and Tlaib (both Muslims) as unamerican and paints them as terrorist sympathizers, he is assuring the Christian Right that he shares their world view.
The most ironic part is that Omar and Tlaib, by expressing feminist and pro-LGBTQ views, are showing that they have a decidedly non-fundamentalist view of Islam — and while Trump is describing them as extremists, he is praising the brutally repressive Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as a great leader and friend of the U.S.
4. Jewish Democrats
A common defense one hears from Trump supporters is that if the president were anti-Semitic, he wouldn’t be so pro-Israel and have a Jewish son-in-law (Jared Kushner) or a formerly Episcopalian daughter who converted to Judaism (Ivanka Trump). But Trump recently showed his anti-Semitism when he accused American Jews who vote Democrat of being “disloyal” to Israel.
There are different versions of anti-Semitism on the far right: while white supremacists like the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations are bitterly anti-Israel, Christian Right outfits such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council consider themselves very pro-Israel — although they still believe that all Jews will be condemned to eternal hellfire (including Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) unless they convert to fundamentalist Christianity before they die. And part of the reason why the Christian Right is so pro-Israel is a belief that Israel will play a key role in the Apocalypse, the “end times” and the return of Jesus Christ. Trump, clearly, has allied himself with the Christian Right version of anti-Semitism, and as the Christian Right sees it, Jewish Democrats in New York City, Boston or San Francisco are prime examples of the type of “coastal elites” Republicans typically rail against. And that “coastal elite” rhetoric showed up in the Trump campaign’s e-mail on Tuesday.